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1  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 28, 2015, 08:05AM
It's a demonstration of how ideological conditioning over rides critical thought. The people who pull the strings on the right, and to a lesser degree the left as well, are completely conscious of it. It's why they are so good at propaganda.
2  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 27, 2015, 05:24AM
Minnesota Miracle

Over the last few months I have written, several times, about the economic disasters being wrought by GOP Governors imposing their ill-conceived, “trickle-down” theories on the people of their respective States. Today I will tell you about a Governor who is doing it right. Well, make that, correctly.
 
While the Citizen’s United GOP wave washed over numerous state legislatures and Governorships in 2010, Minnesota bucked the trend by electing a billionaire from the Democratic-Farmer/Labor Party. Mark Dayton, of the Dayton Dept. Stores/ Target Daytons, took over from Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who was a Presidential candidate for about 5 minutes in 2012.
 
In eight years as the Governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty had garnered a list of “achievements” that included a $6.2 Billion budget shortfall, 7% unemployment (admittedly, below the national average), and a whopping total of 6,200 jobs created. His tenure was, yet another, lesson in the futility of the GOP model.
 
Dayton came into office and, working with a GOP controlled legislature for his first two years, raised the state income tax 2% on individuals making over $150,000 and couples earning over $250,000, got a law passed that guarantees women equal pay for equal work, and has recently signed a bill that will raise the minimum wage in Minn. to $9.50 between now and 2018.
 
Despite the gloom and doom predictions from GOP leaders in the state, Minnesota is flourishing. Since Dayton was sworn in Minnesota has added over 172,000 new jobs, its unemployment rate has plunged to 3.6%, and the state now has a budget surplus of over $1 Billion.
 
Unlike his GOP colleagues in Kansas, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, Dayton is not having to ravage his public schools to pay for gifts to the 1%. He has pledged to invest more than 1/3 of the budget surplus back into the public school system.
 
Another difference Dayton displays is his support of voter’s rights. Rather than passing laws aimed at suppressing voter turnout, he has created an on-line voter registration system that has streamlined the process and made access to the ballot simpler, not harder, for his citizens.
 
This Minnesota Miracle provides a stark contrast between the draconian consequences of Republican reactionary governance and the enlightened results of Democratic Progressive governance. It’s not mathematics, it’s simple arithmetic. When you distribute a State’s GDP in a Progressive, equitable manner, the tide does, indeed, lift all boats.
 
Wake up, America
3  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 19, 2015, 09:34PM
Today you get a two-fer. I don't expect them to publish the first one, but it was too good to pass up.

Checkers/ Chess

This may be the last column I write for the Beacon. I am going to break one of the rules I agreed to when I was accepted on the staff. But, I just can’t help myself. I have to do it.

In last week’s column I wrote about conservatives having a checkers understanding of what is a chess (or more sophisticated) level of complexity when thinking of economics. Then, when I picked up the paper I was amazed to find a picture perfect example of that fact in the column that appears on the opposite side of the page from mine.

I was invited to write this column because of letters I wrote responding to the columns of (my, now, colleague) Dave Rauschenberger. I’m not supposed to do that anymore, now that we are on the staff together. I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Dave, but I know, by reputation amongst people I trust, he is a good, caring, family man who happens to hold views that strongly oppose most of mine.

That’s OK. It is a good thing. The fact we can hold those opposing views and freely express them is one of the bedrock principles that make this country what it is. I suspect we could have a really good time playing music together, or chatting at a barbecue or baseball game, all loves we seem to have in common.

That said, I could not have made up a better example for my checkers/ chess metaphor than two consecutive sentences in his latest column. “The labor participation rate has never been worse in my lifetime. The “middle-class” is further behind than ever.”

I don’t know that Dave meant to point out the cause/ effect of those two sentences. I suspect David and I read the first sentence and see different things, but both viewpoints go to support my metaphor.

Whether it is that labor participation means fewer people participating in the workforce, as I believe my colleague intended, or fewer people belonging to unions, as I read it, it is a direct cause of the middle class being further behind than ever.

What will never occur to Dave is that neither was true before 1980, and both are a direct result of 30+ years of Conservative “Free-Trade” outsourcing, anti-union, “trickle down” economic policies. Again, it’s not rocket science, but it is deeper and more involved than checkers.

Clydesdales:

Today, I’m going to take a page out of the GOP Benghazi playbook and take a few whacks at a dead horse. Well, actually the horse I’m going to whack on isn’t actually dead. In fact, it seems to be as healthy and robust as a Budweiser Clydesdale.
 
This, despite the fact the GOP has cruised through the definition of insane to the point of full on, bat-guano crazy, in their mad desire to kill it. I believe it is 60 times now, SIXTY, they have wasted the time and money of the American taxpayer voting for an impossibility. Don Quixote wasn’t so deranged.
 
And, at the end of the latest enrollment period, the Clydesdale had signed up over 11.4 million people through the exchanges, an increase of almost 50% over 2014’s number. Not bad for what the self-deluding on the right call a dismal failure. Enrollments don’t begin to tell the whole story, though.
 
In its “Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025”, the CBO reports there were, in 2014, 12 million less uninsured, non-elderly people than there would have been without the ACA. There may be an unfortunate few who lost their coverage due to the law, but the 12 million is a net number. It is a 20% reduction.
 
Later in the report we find the cost of the law to the federal government will be significantly less than originally projected. The $710 Billion price tag originally stapled to the law for the period 2015-2019, has now been marked down to by 20% to $571 Billion. One of the biggest factors in this reduction is a significant bending downward in the growth of health care costs, the largest in over 50 years.
 
Much of the propaganda the right has spewed in opposition to this law has been of an anecdotal, not data driven, nature. On that level, I can’t count, on my fingers and toes, the number of people I know personally who have benefited from this long, overdue law. Be it parents with a kid with a pre-existing condition, post-college/ pre-career kids who got to stay on their parents insurance, or artists and other self-employed folks who can now afford to get coverage, there are an awful (actually, wonderful) lot  of people in my life who are in a better place, health wise, because of this law.
 
Would the SCOTUS  kill a Clydesdale?
4  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 18, 2015, 01:16PM
Who are the real job creators?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBx2Y5HhplI

I saw this quite a while ago. Nick Hannauer is a VERY smart man.
5  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 14, 2015, 07:02PM
Why must people characterize the tax rates as punitive as opposed to congratulatory? It really is how it should be viewed.
6  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 14, 2015, 12:39PM
Kind of like explosive limits for various substances, the range at which certain economic policies will work varies greatly. I suspect this is particularly true with the Laff(able)er curve. The range of tax rates at which it is functional is very narrow, and its lower limits are certainly significantly above 50%. We have 35 years of empirical evidence that it doesn't work at any of the tax rates that have been in place since the Reagan tax cuts of the 70's.
7  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 12, 2015, 07:45PM
WILL ROGERS

It is amazing to see so many Republican hopefuls jumping on the income inequality bandwagon. It would be nice if they were, FINALLY, seeing what 35 years of their disastrous “trickle-down” economic policies have resulted in.

But, that is highly unlikely. They are a party with a checkers understanding of a chess economy.

It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before. Comedian Will Rogers coined the phrase “trickle down in 1932, saying, “The money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

For the next 50 years this country got it right. Strong support of unions and proper distribution of the GDP to  workers  through infrastructure spending created the largest, most productive and affluent middle class the world has ever seen. Then came Reagan and his returnt to the “trickle-down” myth. Now look where we are.

AGAIN.

Supply-side, “trickle-down” economics are a checkers concept that might, just barely conceivably, work under a very limited set of circumstances. Maybe. In 35 years, those circumstances have not existed.

Demand is the ONLY driver of a successful, consumption- based economy that has EVER worked in the modern world. And, we are, by design, a consumer based economy.

WE are in the midst of a proof of Mr. Rogers’ truism. Over the past few months, gas prices have tumbled precipitously. Of course, there are multiple reasons for this, and I suspect it will be short-lived (oil is, after all a finite resource and a 20th century technology). But, as a result, less money is going into the pockets of those at the top and more money is STAYING in the pockets of the average American. All of a sudden the economy is on fire.

Progressive policies lift all boats, not just yachts, so that money will end up in the pockets of those at the top, but it will “at lest have passed through the poor fellow’s hands”. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s more than checkers.
8  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Do we get more racist as we get older? on: Feb 12, 2015, 07:29AM
Isn't the entire concept of race so 19th century? The differences between us are mostly cosmetic - how much pigment is in our skin, the colour and texture of our hair, the shape and colour of our eyes. Most of us share the same genetic material, having descended from a common ancestor who lived in the far distant past. 

We now know that the differences between us are less significant than we thought, and that we have far more in common with one another than we ever dreamt. So much so that a belief in different races is really wilful ignorance.



Um, yeah. And, your point is?
9  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Do we get more racist as we get older? on: Feb 09, 2015, 04:54PM
OK. We lived in Holliday, outside of Wichita Falls before we moved to Dallas. My roots go deep in NORTH Central Texas. Even when we moved to what is now the No. Dallas area of the Metroplex, Carrollton was a small country town that had not yet been suburbanized. Either way, I came by my homophobia by cultural isolation that matured with exposure.
10  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Do we get more racist as we get older? on: Feb 09, 2015, 05:26AM

I don't think age has anything to do with racism, my experience is that it's lack of direct contact, and isolation from other races, combined with stereotypes and other misinformation, that causes distrust and dislike of other races.  The reason musicians are less likely to be racist is that most of us get to know, play with, and depend on a wide variety of people in our musical quest.  We tend to make our own decisions about people based on our own experience with them, or in the case of my grandfather (prior to having personal experience) what we have heard and been led to believe by others. 
 

Bingo. I was a typical homophobic from central Texas until I moved to Miami and worked along side some really terrific homosexuals. I think Radar hit this nail squarely on the head.
11  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 06, 2015, 06:02AM
MIDDLE CLASS ECONOMICS


Middle-class economics; per President Obama, "the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules." Sounds reasonable.

That is NOT what we see anytime Republicans are in charge of promoting economic activity. Now that they are in control of the Congress we will see their true colors. According to Michael McAuliff of the Huffington Post, Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) “in his first legislative act as head of the  (Budget) committee that will be central to expected tax reform efforts over the next two years, Ryan pushed through a package of seven tax cut bills that would add $93.5 billion to the deficit in the next decade.

After six consecutive years of chipping away at the $1.5 Trillion deficit the Bush Administration left in President Obama’s lap, the GOP’s first budgetary offering is to start increasing it again by giving tax breaks to those at the top of the food chain. This is a ubiquitous GOP practice that is not limited to the federal level.

In Wisconsin, Presidential hopeful and Koch pet Scott Walker, has presided over a set of tax cuts that the latest estimates by the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office project to exceed $1.8 Billion for the budget beginning in July 2015 and ending in June 2017. It is much the same picture in Kansas, where Sam Brownback’s ”experiment” in tax cutting has resulted in a $280 Million shortfall for this fiscal year, and more than double that next year.

In both cases the Governors are attempting to cover the shortfalls with massive cuts to public education. George Carlin wrapped up the GOP trade-off in a bit he did decades ago. “They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking…..You know what they want? Obedient workers, ­ people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly ******* jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.”

In Walker’s case, he wants to spend the money he is taking from education to build a new NBA sports Arena. Since Rome built the Coliseum, rich protecting politicians have sought to distract the masses with spectacle. Nothing’s changed in 2000 years.
12  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Greece? on: Feb 03, 2015, 05:35AM
So if you want to buy a house, get a mortgage, and then up and decide not to pay it one day... That's the bank's fault?

When the bank is knowingly selling sub-prime mortgages to people who shouldn't have them, then, yep, the bank gets a large portion of the blame. And, if my sibling, spouse, parent, whoever took out that mortgage, and then I become responsible for it, I would feel completely justified in demanding it be re-negotiated. Austerity DOES NOT WORK. It never has, it doesn't now, and it never will. IT's like trying to fix a car with a blockage in the fuel line by furhter restricting the gas flow.
13  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Greece? on: Feb 02, 2015, 08:11AM
WHat is needed, everywhere, is a balance between all the different "isms". THe "far" left essentially disappeared in the west during the Cold War, resulting in a significant shift to the right as the political spectrum expanded to fill that vacuum. It is time for that shift to be reversed, and a balance restored. THe USA was close to having that balance in the post-war years, but lost it with the election of Reagan and the return to power of the GOP after 50 deserved years in exile after they caused the Great Depression. Socialism really isn't a nast word. There are countless examples of socialistic programs in every capitalistic democracy that is succeeding.
14  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Greece? on: Feb 02, 2015, 07:14AM

"The problem with capitalism is that sooner or later all the money ends up in the Cayman Islands"

ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON!!!
15  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Jan 30, 2015, 11:49AM
Yeah, but the non-critical thinking ditto-heads are not perceptive enough to recognize any of those realities.
16  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Jan 30, 2015, 06:05AM
Keystone, Yet Again:

Yesterday, I got the following letter from my Congressman:

Dear Russell,
     While fuel prices have fallen, it is important to note that Middle Eastern oil interests can drive our US domestic oil producers out of business since costs to frack and extract will curtail American production.  Keystone can help keep long term energy costs down and competitive supplies stable.
 
     WITH THIS AND THOUSANDS OF JOBS AT STAKE, IT IS TIME FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA TO SIGN INTO LAW THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE BILL PASSED BY THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND NOW THE U.S. SENATE.
 
     With my regards and best wishes, I remain
 
               Most respectfully,

               John L. Mica
               Member of Congress

Just this month there have been five major pipeline failures in this country resulting in massive destruction, pollution, disruptions of local water supplies, and long-term, very expensive cleanups. During their push to get this boondoggle of a project, the Keystone XL, approved, members of the Senate refused to adopt an amendment assessing tar sands producers the per barrel excise tax on petroleum that all other producers pay which provides the government fund for oil cleanups.

Instead, they passed a “Sense of the Senate” (a somewhat oxymoronic term) amendment which states the companies ought to be required to do so, but doesn’t actually require them to do so. A spill caused by a failure of the Keystone XL has the potential to be the most devastating man-made environmental disaster in the history of the planet. Yet our representatives did not see it necessary to change the tax code so that TransCanada and Koch Industries would be on the hook for the cleanup when, not if (ALL pipelines leak, even if they do not have catastrophic failures), the Keystone puts oil into the ground.

The proposed path of the Keystone takes it, for hundreds of miles, over the Oglalla Aquifer. The Oglalla provides irrigation and drinking water to eight states, most of them “America’s bread basket”. One gallon of oil will contaminate over 100,000 gallons of drinking or irrigation water. A massive spill of the Keystone would have the potential of providing a devastating effect on the daily life and agricultural production of a large swath of this country.

This veto is a no brainer.
17  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Jan 29, 2015, 05:57AM

So treating it as an unmitigated expense is misunderstanding the dynamics a bit.

Checkers understanding of a chess problem. A major problem with the politics in this country.
18  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Jan 26, 2015, 06:29AM
Because it is a good sound bite that non-critical thinkers will swallow without even considering it.
19  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Obama on: Jan 25, 2015, 08:18AM
As far as the debt, and not paying it down; we've been here before. Debt as a % of GDP was even higher at the end of WWII than it is now. We instituted the tax structure necessary to not only pay down that debt, but also to build infrastructure that was, at the time, the envy of the world, even though the rest of the world was rebuilding theirs after it had been destroyed in the war. Doing so allowed us, with the help of a strong union movement, to build the largest, most prosperous middle class in the history of the world and continue to pay down the debt while fighting wars in Korea and VietNam. We had a revolving debt and sporadic deficits until Reagan. He changed us from a "tax and spend" nation that was the biggest creditor nation in the world to a "borrow and spend" nation that is now the largest debtor nation in the world. He institutionalized deficits. ANd, now that infrastructure our parents and grandparents built for us is crumbling around our heads while we let those at the top take the portion of OUR GDP that should be repairing it and hide it in offshore tax havens. We don't make or maintain much of anything in the public comons anymore.
20  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Obama on: Jan 24, 2015, 07:16AM
Why is cutting spending the ONLY aspect so many consider? Growing revenues is another way to cure the deficit and begin paying down the debt. THis country is richer than it has ever been, and taxes, overall, are near 100 year lows. If we're going to insist that cuts are the only way to get out of our debt crisis, the ONLY place in our discretionary spending large enough to make a differnece is the military. It is well over 50% of our discretionary spending, and even cut in half we would still be the largest spender on offense/ defense on the planet by a wide margin.
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